Learning to Love Reading
© Beverley Paine, 2004
It's hard to raise a reader if the rest of the family only read the weekly paper, recipe books and instructions on the annual tax form! Children immersed in a world where reading is valued and an every day part of life naturally develop a desire to read too. With help and encouragement they will soon become readers, even those for whom learning to decode the little squiggles on the page is difficult. My son falls into this category and although he wasn't reading independently until after his tenth birthday, he always saw himself as a writer of stories...
Reading is a great way to escape; from a long day of tiring chores, a pesky sister, a boring drive, or things you'd rather not think about right now. Most people think of reading as reading fiction, but it's not. You can derive pleasure from reading anything at all, and many people do. My sixty-year-old neighbour worked his way through a pile of ancient National Geographic magazines and loved to relate tales of faraway places and exotic cultures... Anything that excites you will keep you turning those pages!
Our role as parents is to encourage a love of our language and for reading that will last a life-time. The aim is to provide an inviting atmosphere for reading in our homes. I'm not interested in spelling bees, or how well my child can do in a standardised reading test. I am interested in how engaged my child is in the text, how much she can recall and retell, what the information or story tells her about herself and the world she lives in. I want her to love to read, to lose herself in the stories, to be amazed at the information she finds, and to emerge transformed and moved.
Learning to read unlocks a powerful transmitter of culture. It's not the only way we communicate - in fact, it's only a tiny fraction of the different ways we transmit culture, but it's one that gives everyone a chance to transcend traditional barriers. A child who can read can access information, discover how people lived a long time ago and reveal worlds and times where different values prevailed. He can begin to understand why people live the way they do now. He can piece together his own view of history from first-hand accounts, make his own moral judgements, and find his own path in life. From his early reading of fairy tales, legends and myths and picture books to detailed and moving autobiographies and fact-filled encyclopaedias, a child can learn much about our place on this planet, who we are, where we've been, where we are heading, and why.
Who wouldn't want a child to have, and use, this powerful key?
Traditional methods of education have all but killed the desire to learn to read. Thousands of years ago humanity relied upon the spoken word, song, dance and pictures to pass information from one generation to the next. As I watch yet another re-run of M.A.S.H. on the television I am aware that pictures have once again claimed dominance. Our brains are tuned into deciphering and making sense from visual media. Many people bemoan the dominance of television, movies, computer and video games, but in essence children today are doing nothing their ancient counterparts didn't... except perhaps they may be processing the information much faster. I don't see this as a necessary worry, but I am saddened that television has replaced conversation, in much the same way that the 'wireless' replaced family and communal singing and dancing... Art has left the world of the farmer, tinker, tailor and furniture maker; people no longer embellish their craft with rich cultural designs that in themselves transmit ancient knowledge and rituals. Artists explore their inner and outer worlds and we absorb their produce as entertainment.
The telling of stories, once an oral tradition, and then transferred to paper, has now moved into the box... It's not a good thing, or a bad thing: it is a fact of life. I believe we are all richer for experiencing, in abundance, every form of cultural transmission every day. So sing, laugh, dance, draw, paint and sculpt, write in the sand and on paper and talk - do all these things and your children's lives will be rich and full.
Unless there is a disability, children naturally begin to talk, and instinctively know how to dance and sing without much input from ourselves, but reading is a skill that is learned over time. Some of us find it easy and do it early; others find it more difficult and can experience some frustration as they develop the technical skills. Most people, if given the chance, and if they are immersed in an environment that uses and values books every day, will learn to read in a very natural way.
How can you encourage the development of reading skills and give your child the key to a world of knowledge far beyond your, and her, experience? I hope this brief booklet will give you some reassurance that the path is not a difficult one and what's more, it's easy and enjoyable. Learning to read doesn't have to be a chore!
One of the well-known vital ingredients to reading success is parents reading to children. You don't have to structure formal shared reading sessions into your day; there are many different ways you can share reading experiences to you daily homeschooling program without making a fuss. For reading to occur as an everyday experience you need material to read: fill your house with books and visit the library every week. Children need something more than the back of the cereal box to read!
Once a child is reading, how do you keep them reading? You'll find tips on how to develop life-long reading habits on other pages in this website. There are tips for enhancing your own reading experiences too!
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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